6 July 2020   2 comments

Iran has suffered three explosions at facilities associated with its nuclear program over the last few weeks. According to the BBC:

Since 26 June alone, there have been several such incidents:

  • 26 June: Blast at a liquid fuel production facility for ballistic missiles in Khojir, close to Parchin, near Tehran; fire at power plant in Shiraz, causing a blackout
  • 30 June: Explosion at a medical clinic in Tehran, 19 people killed
  • 2 July: Blast and fire at Natanz nuclear site
  • 3 July: Large fire in Shiraz
  • 4 July: Explosion and fire in power plant in Ahwaz; chlorine gas leak at Karoun petrochemical plant in Mahshahr

The most recent explosion was at the facility in Natanz, at which advanced centrifuges were produced. There has been no official explanation for the explosions, but a previously unknown group, calling itself the Homeland Cheetahs, has taken credit. The group claims to be comprised of dissident members of the Iranian military and defense establishment, and they provided the BBC with photographs buttressing their claim. It is hard, however, not to suspect that the US and Israel were involved in some way. The US launched a cyberattack against the facility at Natanz in 2007 with a computer virus called Stuxnet. And the Israeli statement was ambiguous. The Guardian describes the response:

“Israeli cabinet officials spoke publicly for the first time on Sunday about the rumours. Neither the defence minister, Benny Gantz, nor the foreign minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, confirmed any Israeli role, including in the latest fire at a power plant in the south-west of the country on Saturday. But their careful statements did little to douse suspicions that at least some incidents were not accidents.

“’Not every incident that happens in Iran is necessarily connected to us,’ Gantz told Israel Radio on Sunday morning. ‘All those systems are complex, they have very high safety constraints and I’m not sure [the Iranians] always know how to maintain them.’

“Asked about Natanz, Ashkenazi told a forum in Jerusalem that Israel had a long-term policy not to allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, adding: ‘It is better not to mention our actions in Iran.’”

Iran’s nuclear program has been set back for many months because of the explosions. The centrifuges being produced at Natanz were highly advanced, giving the Iranians the capability to produced highly enriched uranium quickly. The Natanz facility was not active because of the nuclear agreement reached under the Obama Administration. After President Trump pulled out of the agreement, the Iranians, after waiting a year to see if the agreement could be restored, announced that it would resume uranium enrichment. I have no doubt that the Iranians will respond after they assess the damage and the likely agents responsible for the explosions. That that response will be is unknown, but it is likely to be quite dramatic.

Satellite photo of the damage to the Natanz facility

Posted July 6, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

2 responses to “6 July 2020

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  1. Could these explosions possibly be linked to a more advanced version of Stuxnet (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g0pi4J8auQ)

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    • It’s possible. Perhaps an advanced computer virus could trigger an explosion. But computer viruses can do more damage than a simple blast. I suspect an attack by by internal domestic opposition group (less likely) or an attack by Israel or the US using advanced stealth drones. I suspect the Iranians will provide evidence sometime soon.

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